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Argument: Self-defense with a gun is rare

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Parent debate(s)

Supporting evidence

  • Robert F. Drinan, Former Democratic US Congressman from Mass. and member of the House judiciary Committee, "Gun Control: The Good Outweighs the Evil", 1976 - "Handguns Are Not Viable Tools For Self-Defense: The alleged value of handguns as tools for self-defense is a major underpinning of Mr. Kates's argument. In support of this position he cites a number of isolated examples in which handguns were effective in defense against attacks. These graphic examples of individual instances of self-defense are hardly persuasive. For each such example, there are literally thousands of accidental and deliberate homicides and assaults in which a handgun was used against the owner of the rearm, his family, or his friends. No real point is proved by compiling long lists of examples on either side of the self-defense question. Only overall statistics can provide an accurate estimate of the real value of handguns as weapons of self-defense--and these statistics clearly demonstrate the bankruptcy of the self-defense argument."
  • "A National Crime Panel Survey in 1973 entitled 'An Analysis of Victimization Survey Results from the Eight Impact Cities' indicates that only 3.5% of those owning guns even had the opportunity to use their firearms when they were assaulted or robbed either at home or on the street. This study was based on data in Atlanta, Baltimore, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Newark, Portland, and St. Louis."[1] The argument goes that if a gun is so rarely used in self-defense in instances where it would seem to have been appropriate, than the actual value of a gun for self-defensive purposes could be seen as small.
  • Burglaries rarely happen while anyone is home, diminishing the self-protective capacity of gun-ownership: The FBI estimated in 1973 that 99% of all burglaries occur when no one is at home. Some have argued that this reduces the number of instances in which gun-ownership can serve self-protective purposes, and thus reduces the self-protective value of guns.[2]
  • Robert F. Drinan, Former Democratic US Congressman from Mass. and member of the House judiciary Committee, "Gun Control: The Good Outweighs the Evil", 1976 (responding to Prof. Kates article) - "Prof. Kates's central point is, the fear that gun control laws would be selectively enforced. This would supposedly enable individuals or groups not objectionable to law enforcement organizations to purchase and use firearms against dissenters [law abiding individuals that are unfairly discriminated against by law enforcement officials], while the dissenters would be unable to obtain weapons for their own defense. There are several major flaws in this line of reasoning. The most obvious is that if stringent gun control laws were enforced, there would be a general decline in the availability of firearms to violence-prone individuals and groups. While one might concede that isolated instances of selective nonenforcement [against 'dissenters'] are possible, there would certainly be far more instances in which violence-prone people would be denied access to firearms. To the extent that this would occur, dissenters and other unpopular targets of such individuals would enjoy greater protection from harassment through the operation of stringent gun control laws. In the absence of any firearms controls (a situation apparently considered desirable by [Page 47] Prof. Kates), the Ku Klux Klan and other such groups would obtain and, of greater importance, actually would use guns to a far greater extent than the normally nonviolent dissenters whom Prof. Kates would protect."

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